Monday of the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time [I]
Genesis 1:1-19 + Mark 6:53-56
February 11, 2019
God saw how good it was.
In today’s First Reading the Church proclaims the first nineteen verses of the Bible. The Church proclaims the First Reading at weekday Mass from Genesis for almost two weeks during Ordinary Time: this week and next. Today and tomorrow the First Readings present the narrative of God’s six days of creation, and His rest on the seventh.
Today’s Responsorial is a commentary on the First Reading. To some degree, this psalm repeats what we hear in Genesis 1:1-19. But the psalm also does more. The Responsorial’s refrain points to this something “more”.
“May the Lord be glad in His works.” Regarding each of the created works of the first, third and fourth days, “God saw how good it was.” Within the narrative of God’s work of Creation, this sentence serves as a refrain, repeated over and over.
But today’s Responsorial refrain adds something more. To God’s “seeing” the goodness of creation, the psalm refrain points to the Lord being glad in His works. This “being glad” (the Latin Vulgate uses the verb ‘laetare’, meaning ‘to rejoice’) tells us something about God Himself, and likewise about us who are created in His Image and likeness. Indeed, we can imagine that God’s “rest” on the seventh day was not some sort of “Sunday afternoon nap”, but a “day long” rejoicing in the works He worked by His divine Word.
Tuesday of the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time [I]
Genesis 1:20—2:4 + Mark 7:1-13
February 12, 2019
“Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it.”
If you were to ask a Catholic third grader, “What’s the first of God’s Commandments?”, the child might dutifully reply, “I am the Lord your God: you shall not have strange gods before me.” While we might congratulate Johnny for his studiousness, we’d assume he meant we were asking about the Ten Commandments.
Of course, the Ten Commandments first appear in the Book of Exodus. But God gives many commands before that point in the Bible. In today’s First Reading—from the first two chapters of the Bible—we hear the “original first commandment” to His human children, who were created in His Image and likeness. “Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it.” Note that there are two elements to this command, each shedding light on the other.
The first is God’s command to be fertile. In honoring this command, man—male and female—reflect the abundance of God’s own love. That’s why the Church teaches that deliberately thwarting the gift of fertility is a grave offense against God’s loving creation of man in His own Image.
The second is man’s subduing of the earth. The following sentence clarifies the meaning of “subdue” through God’s command to man to “have dominion”. “Dominion” is related to the Latin word for “Lord” (“Dominus”). Mankind’s dominion over the earth is an on-going act of stewardship, caring for God’s creation with respect for God—not man—as the Creator.
Wednesday of the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time [I]
Genesis 2:4-9,15-17 + Mark 7:14-23
February 13, 2019
“…the things that come from within are what defile.”
Jesus speaks at length, and quite unflatteringly, about what comes from “within the man, from his heart”. He mentions thirteen evils, though one gets the impression that He easily could have continued. He is describing the fallen human heart, which does not have the law of God within. Jesus wants us to realize our utter need for grace.
Consider this in light of today’s First Reading from the Book of Genesis. We hear the beginning of one of Scripture’s accounts of the creation of man: “the Lord God formed man out of the clay of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and so man became a living being.” The phrase “the breath of life” we might consider as a description of the human soul. While man resembles other animals in many ways, it’s by means of this breath that man transcends them.
However, the Latin proverb reminds us that “corruptio optimi, pessima”: “the corruption of the best results in the worst.” By sin—as we will hear in Friday’s and Saturday’s First Readings—God’s gift of the breath of life becomes the very source of death. This death has many names, and Jesus give us only thirteen in today’s Gospel passage. Such is the power that each human person has: to disallow God from working through God’s own creation.
Sts. Cyril, Monk, and Methodius, Bishop
Genesis 2:18-25 + Mark 7:24-30
February 14, 2019
“Lord, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s scraps.”
St. Mark the Evangelist tells us that a Greek woman—that is, an outsider—came to Jesus and “begged” Him to help her daughter. This woman, despite not being a Jew—despite not being among that people of the Covenant, who had been waiting for the Messiah to come—nonetheless cried out to Jesus for help. But what happened when she cried out to Jesus for help?
Jesus essentially calls the woman and her daughter dogs! He says to this outsider, “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.” The “children” Jesus is referring to are the children of Israel, the ones the Father sent Him to teach, while this woman is an outsider, a “dog”. But why is Jesus talking this way?
Scripture scholars tells us that our English translation “dogs” doesn’t fully capture what Jesus says. The actual word is more gentle, and specific, meaning “puppies”: something adorable, if pesky. The woman’s response to Jesus shows that she knows what Jesus is up to, and is willing to play along.
God knows you better than you know yourself. God demands faith from us, even when we believe we have none. He is willing to “pull” our faith out of us—we might even say that He is willing to test us—in order to purify our faith. Jesus knows what sort of faith this woman has. And He is willing to draw it out, because without faith on this woman’s part, he will not work a miracle. Pray for the sort of confident faith that this woman has to “banter” with God and to recognize that your being an outsider is not an impediment to the grace God wishes to give you.
Friday of the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time [I]
Genesis 3:1-8 + Mark 7:31-37
February 15, 2019
…the man and his wife hid themselves from the Lord God among the trees of the garden.
The first chapters of the Book of Genesis are the first chapters of the Bible as the foundation of a house is its first layer. They’re not just the first of many, but those on which the others rest. These chapters offer keys which unlock the meaning of so many passages of Scripture that follow.
In the First Readings of today’s and tomorrow’s Masses, we hear of mankind’s Original Sin. Today’s First Reading presents its commission; tomorrow’s, its immediate consequences.
We might reflect upon the fact that it takes six verses in this narrative before the woman commits the original sin. Four things occur beforehand: the serpent asks her a question; she responds; the serpent refutes her response; and the woman reasons her way to the commission of the sin.
Our own sins may not concern the eating of fruit, and a serpent may not be our tempter, but the dynamics between the serpent and the woman are key. The serpent did not motivate the woman to act impulsively. Rather, the serpent used (or rather, abused) reason to sway the woman’s intellect. She freely choose to sin, believing entirely for herself that her sin was a good. We ought to consider these five verses as a sort of examination of conscience for ourselves.
Saturday of the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time [I]
Genesis 3:9-24 + Mark 8:1-10
February 16, 2019
Then, taking the seven loaves He gave thanks….
That the miracle described in today’s Gospel account foreshadows the Sacrament of the Eucharist is clear. What could get overlooked, however, is an action of Jesus only briefly described in the midst of this miracle. The evangelist explains that “taking the seven loaves [Jesus] gave thanks, broke them, and gave them….”
Jesus’ act of giving thanks here is described by the evangelist with the Greek verb “eucharisteo”. It’s from this word that the English word “Eucharist” derives. Likely we think of the act of thanksgiving as being part of what the Eucharist is about, but it’s another thing to recognize that this most blessed of the Sacraments is named after the very act of giving thanks.
In contrasting the four most basic types of vocal prayer—petition, thanksgiving, contrition and adoration—thanksgiving is not the most selfless. Adoration focuses more solely on God in His own goodness. Thanksgiving regards what God has done for me, not for His own glory. Nonetheless, without thanksgiving, we cannot advance to prayer of adoration. Giving thanks for what God has done for one allows one to enter into the humility necessary for praying in adoration before God.